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ECtHR rules journos cannot be barred from parliaments

Issues

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In connection to a case involving Macedonian journalists, the  European Court of Human Rights has ruled that journalists cannot be barred from parliaments, according to reports. The decision is likely to have implications for Hungary, as many Hungarian journalists have been banned from entering its National Assembly.

“The European Court has handed down a significant judgment condemning the forcible removal of journalists from the Parliament of Macedonia in a case brought with the support of MLDI and its partner the Media Development Center. This is a significant decision from the European Court recognizing that it is unacceptable for authorities to remove journalists from areas where public interest events are unfolding, unless there is some real threat to their or the public’s safety,” the Media Legal Defense Initiative (MLDI), an NGO established in 2008 to provide legal assistance to journalists, reported yesterday in an entry entitled “European Court finds removal of journalists from parliament violates press freedom.

It has been an almost regular occurrence in recent years that Hungarian journalists, in the majority of cases from media outlets critical of the present government, have been barred from entry to the Hungarian Parliament, online news portal index.hu notes. While for many journalists the ban has been temporary — including staff of news portal 24.hu, the now defunct daily Népszabadság, HVG, index.hu and RTL Klub — the entire staff of 444.hu is still banned from entering the assembly.

House Speaker László Kövér, well-known for his strict and traditionalist attitude, generally banned journalists, claiming they asked questions in parts of the building where they are not entitled to do so, which he said is against the rules. However, Hungarian journalists have often argued that it is almost impossible to talk to politicians as the corridor where they are entitled to ask questions is so short that politicians can rush through it in seconds, ignoring questions if they do not feel inclined to answer them.

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